Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic waves in the courtroom before the ruling.—Reuters
Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic waves in the courtroom before the ruling.—Reuters

THE HAGUE: United Nations war crimes judges on Tuesday upheld a genocide conviction and life sentence against former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, rejecting all grounds of appeal against a lower tribunal’s verdict.

Mladic, 78, led Bosnian Serb forces during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. He was convicted in 2017 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes including terrorising the civilian population of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during a 43-month siege, and the killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.

He had been convicted by trial and ordered to serve life in prison, but appealed against both the verdict and sentence. Wearing a dress shirt and black suit, Mladic stood looking at the floor as his conviction and sentence were upheld in court.

The appeals chamber “dismisses Mladic’s appeal in its entirety..., dismisses the prosecution’s appeal in its entirety..., affirms the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on Mladic by the trial chamber,” said a written summary of the appeals judgement.

The outcome caps 25 years of trials at the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICFTY), which convicted 90 people. The ICTFY is one of the predecessors of the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, also seated in The Hague.

“Today is a historic day not only for us mothers of Srebrenica but for all of the Balkans, Europe and the world,” Munira Subasic, whose son and husband were killed by nationalist Serb forces that overran Srebrenica, said before the hearing.

“Everywhere his army went, everywhere his boots went, he committed genocide in the villages, in the cities, in the houses...He killed everyone just because they were not Serbs.”

The appeals judges said Mladic would remain in custody in The Hague while arrangements were made for his transfer to a state where he will serve his sentence. It is not yet known which country will take him.

Fourteen European countries have taken in UN court convicts to serve out their sentences so far. Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic was transferred to a British prison last month.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021

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